Complete a thorough assessment of the organizational goal(s) and the targeted learner
This might sound like common sense, but it is shocking how often this critical first step is left incomplete or is skipped altogether. Before you can design any effective eLearning program, you must understand the learners who will be engaging with it. The technical capabilities & access, existing skills & skill gaps, any prior knowledge that should be called upon during the learning process (part of instructional scaffolding), and the context in which the learners are likely to apply new knowledge are all factors that should greatly inform instructional design decisions.
It is also important to have extreme clarity around the organizational end-goals inspiring the investment in new eLearning content. It is not at all uncommon for a company to think it simply needs to beef up its customer service training in order to solve a declining customer satisfaction rates but, in the end, the root issue is more systemic. Still solvable, just not with the customer service training they originally sought. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that get to the why-behind-the-why before you go down a specific design path. A complete and accurate assessment at the outset ensures the final product facilitates learning transfer that will actually impact the organization’s desired outcomes.
Provide ample opportunities for practice
Regardless of the content category, the only way to ensure learning transfer in eLearning is to include lots and lots of practice. This is especially important for building-block knowledge, theoretical principles, and dependent processes upon which the course’s terminal learning objectives are based. Practice opportunities should be varied, in both format and cadence, to maximize the potential for transfer to long-term memory.
Regular practice exercises also provide early and consistent insights into how each learner is digesting and understanding the eLearning content, which provides opportunities for both individual intervention and content optimization, based on trends observed at the cohort-level.
Make content relevant and linked to real-world application
For knowledge to stick, it needs to be applied to appropriate scenarios in different contexts. With certain process-oriented knowledge, this is fairly easy to do in an online environment. But attaining contextual parity for more interactive environments requiring the application of critical thinking skills is not so simple.
To expose learners to authentic application-based eLearning, incorporate interactive case studies and branching scenarios that allow for individualized decision making and feature personalized feedback at specific decision-points throughout the learning path.